Monday, October 13, 2008

Sanguine Thoughts

Now, let's suppose that you were a vampire...


Yes, darn it. My mind works like this on a regular basis. Let's get back to the topic at hand.

Let's suppose that you were a vampire. But I don't refer to the concept of the ultra-modern vampire as we now know it, so let's get all thoughts of Bela Lugosi, Anne Rice, Joss Whedon, Stephenie Meyer, and the World of Darkness out of your head for a while. Let's get down to the basics -- and when I say basics, I mean the concrete essences of what makes you vampire in the first place:

1. You consume blood. This is pretty much the traditional characteristic, although it remains to be seen as to whether or not you'll actively go for the human variety.

2. You're undead. You're presumably still alive around the time you get "converted", so you're not exactly decomposing by the minute like some ordinary zombie.

3. You live far longer than necessary. This is one of the consequences of not really being alive. Being a walking corpse also implies that you're tougher than usual, which isn't too bad a deal.

4. You're adversely affected by sunlight. Meyer's "sparkly" vampires aside, mere exposure to sunlight will leave some really painful burns on your skin. Prolonged exposure to sunlight will kill you, plain and simple.

5. You're severely debilitated by a stake to the heart. Don't worry -- the same can be said of anyone else, I suppose.

6. You can create other vampires. The processes are too varied to list, I'm afraid.

So now that we can suppose that you were a vampire, I'll ask a single basic question: Just what do you do with your existence?

Oh, I imagine that some people have a quite a few answers already. Maybe you'd go clubbing every night. Maybe you'd indulge yourself in drink or drugs (particularly since none of them would leave your system with any long-term effects). I figure that your sex life would probably be nothing short of incredible.

Nevertheless, I'd still ask: What the heck would you do with your existence?

I mean, you can't necessarily go dancing, drinking, drugging or sexing yourself forever. You'd get bored, darn it... especially when we're talking near-immortality here. Ordinary humans can probably take on only about ten to twenty years of hard partying before it all starts feeling like the same old, same old. Face it -- you're bound to start looking for meaning sometime.

I imagine that the hunt would be a significant factor for at least the first couple of decades. You'd need some nice warm human blood to feed on, I mean, and no matter how long you live, every single victim you encounter will react in a completely different manner to your... efforts. In short, you'd probably get some entertainment value out of stalking and feeding on humans.

The problem is that this would also degenerate into the usual "same old, same old", with some very practical reasons attached. A trail of exsanguinated bodies, after all, attracts attention... and after a while, like some advanced RPG player, you'd start developing techniques that will always guarantee you a meal for the night. You'd get bored of the whole game eventually. And besides... why not just raid the local hospital or blood bank for samples? The longer you stick around, the more pragmatic you're likely to think.

Modern literature is full of vampires who have been around for a long time, perhaps about a couple of hundred years at least. This provides a lot of rest periods where you can sit around and wonder just what to do with your (un)life. The catch is that there are no good immediate answers, and those first things that come to mind will only last you a few decades before you get bored.

The first practical consideration that comes to mind is the possibility of furthering oneself. That is -- you can pick out virtually any field you want, and delve into such an interest. You can master the intricacies of writing, I suppose. Or you can learn the art of gemstone appraisal. You can earn that double degree in medicine, or you can memorize each and every nuance of the law. You can become a respected stage actor, or hone your skills as a jazz musician. I mean... you've got the time, and you'll most likely be able to procure the resources. You'll probably get more out of this than your original clubbing itinerary, and if you ever get bored, you can change fields.

The second consideration is that you can go into business. This is the kind of thing that will almost certainly change with each generation; you could be selling horseshoes and buggy whips one century, and fiber-optic cables the next. There will always be a demand for business around here... and if you get bored with your line of work, you can just switch to a new product or service. Heck, if you're still not convinced, just think about the possibility of selling your stock in a company one hundred years after your initial purchase -- you'd have enough funds to cover every luxury to be invented.

The third and final consideration in my book just happens to involve politics. I'm not saying that you should take over a country and become a vampiric despot, of course -- I'm merely saying that politics is an extremely complex field that can never really be mastered. What that means for you, however, is that it's a game that constantly changes with time... and can therefore keep your interest for a good long while. It will probably take you generations you ascend to the rulership of even a small country, and if you find yourself dissatisfied with your lifestyle then, you can run it to the ground and try to manipulate another region.

And if by some chance you still find yourself horribly, horribly bored even after all that, then you've been exposed to the inherent curse of immortality: Life is ultimately a passel of limited experiences. You might as well sit on a high cliff and wait for the sun to come up -- that way, you get a good view before it scatters your form into dry ash.

Yes, this is what goes through my mind whenever somebody so much as brings up an idea where traditional vampires exist alongside humans. I mean, it's an interesting concept and all, but you really have to think long-term here. Despite their obvious disconnection to us, I like to assume that vampires are still human, deep down inside that tough bloodless exterior. No wonder they get characterized as the brooding, angsty types.

Vampirism sucks, I suppose. And I do mean that in a truthful, yet painfully pun-induced manner.


Dominique said...

Don't forget #7: coffin hair

I suppose what makes vampires so attractive to many is the bound-by-no-rules-party-all-night lifestyle.

However, the answer to that assumption -- and to yours -- lies in Bram Stoker's "Dracula":

Nay, he is even more prisoner than the slave of the galley, than the madman in his cell. He cannot go where he lists, he who is not of nature has yet to obey some of nature's laws, why we know not.

So really, from this view, a vampire cannot search for meaning any more than a cockroach can.

happylittlegirl said...

It'd be hard to go into politics considering you can't go out into the light. Then again, I suppose you could always just be cooped up inside some building and people would just think that you're hardworking because you only go out at night.

I think the books and the stuff in movies make pretty convincing descriptions of what vampires did in all the years they'd been living. They can change their identities since the people around them will change. I don't see anything boring with that, I mean, if you can be a different person with every turn of the century (or maybe just 50 years), you can be a party-goer this time, and then a total geek in the next 50 years, right? I don't think I'd be too bored with that.

Although it would still be pretty lonely...

Anonymous said...

If you noticed, some stories incorporated the "day walker" vampires.

So if I were a day walking vampire I couldn't die by watching the sun come up. How would I end my existence then?

Sean said...

Dominique: I imagine that, after ages and ages of unlife, you're bound to be willing to try anything. Even bad hairdos.

I really don't buy Stoker's lines, to be honest; it assumes that the vampire is a less-than-human creature who answers to certain natural instincts. While that may be the case, I assume that they're built on a completely human base for all intents and purposes.

Ida: Having seen a generation of white-collar workers who work at night and sleep during the day, I don't think that that would be too far of a stretch. :)

And as much as I'd hate to say so, slogging around for a few hundred years will probably take the edge off most of the loneliness. The catch is that you'd probably end up a little dead inside, although that wouldn't be too surprising.

Anonymous: This is why I dislike "daywalkers". The concept takes a lot out of vampirism -- you lose some of the dark and mysterious atmosphere, a good chunk of the angst, and an obvious weakness that can be used to good effect.

Authors who remove the lethality of daylight, however, usually focus on other ways for vampires to die. So the good news is that you could still hypothetically stake yourself without much issue... and maybe while keeping that nice tan you just got at the local beach resort.

happylittlegirl said...

Are you suggesting that there's a bit of vampire in all of us? :P

Anonymous said...

If I were to choose, I wouldn't want to be a vampire. Its too inconvenient.

I'd just be immortal, like Quentin/Duncan Mcleod of Highlander. Minus the beheadings and the sword fights.

banzai cat said...

Well, if you were immortal, just think of all the catching up you can do with books. ;-)

Sean said...

Ida: I'm suggesting that there's a little bit of vampire in all of us, just as there's a little bit of us in every vampire. (Although that last part sounds a little wrong.)

Anonymous: Hey, the Highlanders obviously have it a lot better than vampires do. And darn it, they get these cool swords, to boot.

Banzai Cat: ...Until you get bored with books as a whole. :/